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de Bouard and Casteja named in Saint Emilion legal challenge

Hubert de Bouard and Philippe Casteja have been named as having conflicts of interest in the beleagured classification in Saint Emilion as three disaffected chateaux lodged a legal complaint with the public prosecutor against the ranking.

Hubert de Bouard: conflict of interest? [pic: newbordeaux.com]

The papers were filed last week by the owners of Chateaux Croque Michotte, Corbin Michotte and La Tour du Pin Figeac, who had warned a few months ago that they were to contest the 2012 ranking, which saw 82 chateaux rewarded out of 96 that submitted an application.

The complaint specifically took issue with the roles of Hubert de Bouard and Philippe Casteja, who were members of the national INAO commission that oversaw the classification, and were at the same time owners of Chateau Angelus and Chateau Trotte Vielle respectively. It will now be up to the Procureur de la Republique – the public prosecutor – to decide if there is a case to pursue.

‘I couldn’t say if this will shock Saint Emilion, but I was shocked by the manner that this classification was carried out,’ Francois de Contencin, lawyer for the three estates, told Decanter.com.

‘As members of the INAO commission, both men had influence over the parameters for deciding the new ranking, and helped select who would be on the tasting commission. As far as we know, they at no point stepped back from the process. This is a clear conflict of interest.’

He denied that this was in any way defamatory. ‘This is nothing against the men personally, but the conflict of their two roles. They are cited as an example of incorrect process, nothing more.’

In a further sign of tension in Saint Emilion, the Groupement de Premier Grand Cru Classés, a marketing group to raise the profile of these wines, is facing an uncertain future following the resignation of Cheval Blanc, Pavie and Angelus.

Stephanie de Bouard, managing director of Chateau Angelus, said that her father [Hubert de Bouard] would comment in due course but was abroad at the moment. She said she was surprised by the action.

‘The INAO is highly respected, very thorough and extremely cautious. Every time there was a debate or a vote, my father and M Casteja were asked to leave the room. It was all recorded that they never took part in a vote. The judge will have access to all the records.

‘That’s why I’m surprised. But if people want to attack you, they will find any way to do so.’

de Bouard stressed that she was speaking personally and not officially for her father.

Philippe Casteja is travelling in China and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Contencin confirmed that there were now up to three months for the public prosecutor to investigate and potentially bring charges.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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